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Research Foundations: Reading Scholarly Articles

Reading Popular vs Scholarly Articles

Articles from magazines and newspapers can be straightforward to use for your research. Most read easily from start to finish. As popular sources, the vocabulary in magazines and newspapers is understandable for most readers. These sources also tend to synthesize a topic into its most basic elements. Magazine and newspaper articles are easy to skim and spot information that relates to your project.

Unlike these popular sources, scholarly articles are longer in length, contain specialized vocabulary, and include in-depth information written for scholars, experts, and students studying the topic. The information addresses specific aspects of a topic rather than the "big picture." Because of this, it is helpful to utilize effective reading strategies while tackling these important sources of information.

Reading Strategies

Scholarly articles are great sources for your research projects. They are also dense and unfamiliar sources of information to many students. Fortunately, there are ways to navigate these sources to help reduce the intimidation and confusion that often arises when reading scholarly articles. The more you practice and read these types of articles, the easier it becomes to use scholarly articles effectively.

Here are some basic steps to navigating scholarly articles:

  1. Title - Scholarly article titles are usually descriptive and can help you decide if the content will be applicable to your topic.
  2. Abstract – The abstract functions like a summary of the article. It will provide an explanation of the article’s purpose, scope, and any research methods or results.
  3. Introduction - This section will go into detail about the main thesis, hypothesis, and importance of the research in the article.
  4. Headings – Review the section headings to help you decide which parts of the article you want to focus on reading.
  5. Results* – Find out the main findings of the author’s research.
  6. Conclusion – Before reading the entire article, it is helpful to know the results of the research or analysis to make reading easier.
  7. Read the Text – You can now review the full text of the article as a well-informed reader. Make notes, highlight, and look up any unfamiliar words or terminology.

*some articles may not have a results section because they focus on theory and critical analysis rather than data